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SMMC Dialysis Patients share their stories

SMMC Dialysis Patients share their stories

Losing one’s kidney function and being on dialysis treatment for the rest of your life can be a stressful life changing experience, but it’s an experience that many St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) patients have chosen to approach with a positive attitude and optimistic mindset.


Carlos Arndell and Joicelyn Griffin Suares are among the SMMC patients who see life differently since going on dialysis treatment, but they have pledged to make the best of their current reality and not let dialysis dampen their lives.





Dialysis is the process of removing waste and excess water from the blood. It is done primarily to provide an artificial replacement for lost kidney function in people with renal failure. The kidneys have important roles in maintaining health. When healthy, the kidneys maintain the body's internal equilibrium of water and minerals (sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sulfate). The acidic metabolism end-products that the body cannot get rid of via respiration are also excreted through the kidneys. When the kidney cannot perform these functions, dialysis is required.


For Arndell who has been dialyzing for ten years, six months, three weeks and five days, the process was certainly a life changing one for him. Two years before he began treatment, Arndell was told that his kidneys had been failing. He had been living and working in Puerto Rico at the time and it was not news he was prepared for.


The first four years of dialysis treatment was very difficult for Arndell. Apart from experiencing a lot of pain, he became discouraged and unmotivated.


At one point his discouragement got the best of him and he deliberately stayed away from treatment for two weeks. As dialysis is absolutely necessary for someone with his condition, his lack of treatment for such an extended period landed him as an inpatient in the hospital.


The experience taught him a valuable lesson of the importance of dialyzing in a timely manner. This coupled with strong support he received from family members motivated Arndell to accept his new reality as a dialysis patient who would need steady treatment.


He was then determined to change his lifestyle for the better. He fondly remembers the support and inspiration he received from a nurse at SMMC whom he knew only as Nurse Shelly. She would visit him at home and encourage him and his family.


Arndell no longer eat out as frequently as before. He prepares his meals at home and rarely consumes meat. His daily health routine also includes taking vitamin supplements such as cultrate to replace calcium lost as a result of kidney disease.


Physical exercise is also part of his health routine. He is on the basketball court in Zorg-en-Rust three times per week giving basketball training to youths in the community. He also uses his time on the court to inspire and encourage and he frequently reminds youths that it is important to take care of their bodies.


Today, Arndell has another motivation. He is getting ready to start his own business and he is determined to succeed.


As an accountant with experience in sales and marketing, Arndell has always been an independent person. He plans to use his skills as an entrepreneur. He is excited about his new endeavours and is confident that it will reap fruits.


Arndell cherishes life and is determined to make the best of his current reality as a dialysis patient.


Suares’ story is similar to Arndell’s. She has been dialyzing at SMMC for more than five years. She dialyses three times a week for three and a half hours during each visit.


Since starting treatment, Suares’ life has improved. She no longer feels weak and tired as she did prior to treatment.


While some may say that she did not have a choice, Suares believes that she did, and she is glad that she made the right decision to go on dialysis treatment. “If I had to [make the choice to dialyze ed.] again, I would do it.”


She has accepted the reality that dialysis treatment will always be a part of her life as undergoing kidney transplant is out of the question due to her medical history and age. Several years ago she underwent open heart surgery. Persons who undergo such operations and are older than 55 years of age are at risk for a successful kidney transplant. Suares is not disheartened by this and has accepted her life as it is. “It is good enough for me,” she proclaims. 


Suares learnt early during her dialysis treatment that she cannot engage in certain activities as she used to. She recalled going to lunch with a friend and having two glasses of fruit punch with her meal. She later ended up as an inpatient at SMMC.


She now knows the importance of moderation and the need to control her fluid intake.


She enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends and as an income-generating hobby, can be found selling her floral arrangement in front of her home in St. Maarten’s capital Philipsburg. She enjoys making floral arrangements for others as much as she enjoys doing so for herself. She is already preparing for Valentine’s Day on February 14, a time when she is always busy filling orders for lovebirds.

She also enjoys being in the kitchen making use of her culinary skills whenever she is not working or dialyzing.

For now, she is enjoying life and is grateful for every new day.

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